Plenty of old to celebrate while ringing in the new
Happy, New Year!
Yes, we’ve left behind a 2012 that was a pretty good year to some with High Point connections and look into the corridor of the unknown in 2013.
Heather Richardson made one of the biggest splashes just last week, looking like a potential medal contender in the 2014 Winter Olympics by scoring wins in three events and national records at the U.S. Long Track Speedskating Championships.
In racing of another kind, Ryan Blaney showed that he was more than a chip off the old engine block and has bright future, becoming the youngest winner in any of NASCAR’s top three divisions with a victory in a Truck race in Iowa and also became one of Roger Penske’s drivers in the Nationwide Series.
Wil Myers also made headlines as he was named the player of the year in Minor League baseball by two trade publications and then was traded along with other players by the Kansas City Royals to the Tampa Bay Rays for pitching. The swap sent Myers from potentially playing for a doormat to a playoff contender. The question is where will he will be in the lineup on opening day-- with the Big League club or with the AAA Durham Bulls.
High Point University also enjoyed some bright spots. The women’s basketball team enjoyed its second 20-win season in the Division-I era, reached the Big South final and advanced to the WNIT, where it was bounced by N.C. State. Then came the upheaval. Coach Jen Hoover left to take the job at Wake Forest and assistant DeUnna Hendrix took the reigns for a so-far bumpy ride that has included star guard Erin Reynolds being sidelined because of a concussion.
HPU’s women soccer and lacrosse teams won regular season championships before losing in the conference tournaments. In track, Jacob Smith qualified for the NCAA champioships in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
The men’s basketball finally benefited from talented redshirt freshman John Brown finally becoming eligible and the addition of forward Allen Chaney, the heart patient who initially played at Florida. But, the Panthers still must prove they can win under Scott Cherry after struggling again through their nonconference schedule. The prospects look brighter when they begin Big South play on Saturday a number of the league’s teams aren’t as good as many of the teams the Panthers have played.
Across the region, the football coach at N.C. State was fired after posting a less-than-impressive 7-5 record because he and the athletics director didn’t see eye-to-eye while the coach at Duke was voted ACC coach of the year after going 6-6, which was a leap forward for the Blue Devils.
State also learned that firing and playing a bowl game with a one-shot coach is a non-win situation as witnessed by their sloppy play on Monday. They head off into the great unknown with a coach plucked out of Illinois given the job of turning the program into something it’s never been, a consistent national power.
The Wolfpack basketball returned to the national conversation for the first time in several years with a run to the sweet 16 last March and a top-10 preseason ranking. That put them on equal ground with Duke and UNC, the Blue Devils rebounding from a first-game upset in the NCAA tournament last March to rise to No. 1 in the polls this season while the Tar Heels try to get their footing after losing four starters. Should make for another interesting March.
The football scandals continued at UNC, overshadowing a respectable 8-4 campaign under first-year coach Larry Fedora.
Over at Wake Forest, the losing continued in football and basketball. Amid the clamor by some fans for his ouster, Jeff Bzdelik show signs of having a team that could finish in the middle of the pack, given that the Deacons are improved and the lesser lights of ACC aren’t very good. The football team’s struggles left open discussion about the possibility of Jim Grobe’s best days being behind him.
And in Charlotte, the watch is on to see if coach Ron Rivera will be back after the Panthers needed a late surge to finish at 7-9 after a lot of hype of making the playoffs.
The New Year leaves a lot of questions to be answered.